Friday, July 13, 2007

The Iraq Vote

It's not a surprise that the vote on the resolution to begin redeploying troops went pretty much along party lines. Our Representative Scott Garrett joined most of the Republicans in Congress opposing the resolution. The partisan talking points are expected, and if Garrett said anything in the four plus hours of debate I'll post it here tomorrow in its entirety.

We already know that the Administration underequiped the troops, has not been able to stop corruption in Iraq, and has wasted taxpayer dollars paying billions to contractors for jobs Iraqis can do themselves. What evidence are the Republicans waiting for to change their minds?

At this point this vote is primarily about supporting the troops, and acknowledging this may be the worst managed war in American history. It's not the soldiers' fault, it's the very bureaucrats and politicians saying the war shouldn't be run by politicians and polls. Our troops have been willing to answer the call while the politicians and political appointees on the other end of the line don't respect their lives enough to protect them.

Just yesterday, the AP detailed the Inspector General of the Pentagon's report detailing just one of many areas where the Administration failed to protect our men and women in harm's way and Congress's abdication of their oversight responsibility over the last few years cost lives:
The Defense Department put U.S. troops in Iraq at risk by awarding contracts for badly needed armored vehicles to companies that failed to deliver them on time, according to a review by the Pentagon's inspector general.


Force Protection failed to meet all delivery schedules, according to the report, and acquisition officials knew there were other manufacturers that might have supplied some of the vehicles in a more timely fashion.


The report, not yet publicly released, also criticizes the Army's award of a $266-million contract for crew protection kits to Simula Aerospace and Defense Group, a subsidiary of Armor Holdings of Jacksonville, Fla. Simula lacked the internal controls necessary to ensure delivery of the kits, which were needed to make military vehicles less vulnerable to roadside bombs and small-arms fire, according to the report. The Army received kits "with missing and unusable components, which increased installation time and required additional reinspection of kits," according to the report.

There is next to nothing that inspires rage in me like reading about stuff like this. I've listened to my friends talking about their time over there, either participating in or knowing those who had to scavenge scrap metal. Instead of being provided with the equipment they needed, our soldiers made do by welding hunks of metal and lining the floors of their Humvees with sandbags to try and stay alive. For the majority of our 3,160 deaths in Iraq having to make do was fatal, for the tens of thousands injured it didn't work out so well either.

Compare the reality of the situation with the "support the troops" campaign rhetoric espoused by Garrett, as reported by The Record last year:
He became impassioned when he was asked about voting in favor of defense appropriations. "I wish they were home right now," he said. "I wish this whole war was over. I wish we were successful, but as long as our sons and daughters are in harm's way ... by golly, I'm going to make sure they have every darn thing they need."

By golly, they haven't had every darn thing they've needed since the beginning, and Garrett knew it when he said this and he knew it today. How is voting to continue the current mismanagement of the war anything less than letting the troops down?

Adding insult to national injury, you have the report released today dealing with the benchmarks. The Iraqis have failed to make satisfactory progress on the more than half of the benchmarks set forth, and they're complaining about our focus on results. We're spending $10 billion a month, and the Administration wants us to be heartened by the fact they've spent a total of $7.6 billion on reconstruction.

If that's the case, then that means the $8 billion reported to be missing earlier this year was almost all our money. As I noted at the time, that's not even the whole amount stolen from US taxpayers because the Iraqis have it in their Constitution that Cabinet ministers can block corruption investigations. So, in essence, continuing to vote to support the Administration's methods is a vote to continue giving taxpayer money to those who feel they have a Constitutional right to be corrupt.

Then of course you have the cost of the war being inflated by no-bid contracting of civilian contractors, and the implication that plays in making employment in a militia appealing to Iraqis. KBR, the largest private contractor in Iraq, had over 1,000 jobs available in Iraq on their website this evening. Not only are taxpayers paying a salary premium for the danger involved, we're paying an administrative fee to KBR for finding the individual. How many of those jobs could be filled by Iraqis at much less of a cost to taxpayers?

With all of this information available to Congress before it's available to us, it's mindblowing that Garrett and others continue to vote to keep doing the same thing. What is it going to take for those like Garrett to vote to support the troops and protect taxpayers?

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